The KIA Tigers are gearing up for the 2024 season. It’s also the final season of manager Kim Jong-kook’s contract. While foreign hitter Socrates has been given the green light to re-sign, it will be interesting to see if the Tigers solve their first base woes with an outside free agent signing.

KIA finished the 2023 season in sixth place in the league with 73 wins, two draws and 69 losses. Under Kim Jong-kook, the team finished fifth in the league and missed out on the wild-card round, and finished sixth in the league and missed out on the fall baseball season.

There was a lot of talk in the baseball world about the manager’s future after the regular season ended. However, KIA recently decided to retain Kim Jong-kook and will keep him at the helm until the 2024 season, the final year of his contract.

Socrates, KIA’s foreign hitter. Photo by Kim Young-gu

Socrates, KIA’s foreign hitter. Photo by Kim Young-gu
While the two existing foreign pitchers have question marks on their contracts, Socrates has been given the green light to re-sign. In his second year in the KBO, Socrates played in 142 games this season, batting .285 with 156 hits, 20 home runs, 96 RBIs, 15 doubles, a 0.344 on-base percentage, and a 0.463 slugging percentage. Socrates’ 4.58 WAR for the season was second in the league among foreign hitters, behind only Austin (LG Twins – 5.22 WAR).

On the team, Socrates led the team in WAR by a wide margin over second-place Kim Do-young (WAR 3.70). He also leads the team in hits, home runs, and RBIs. It’s hard to imagine a team even considering re-signing him.

Furthermore, Socrates will be in his third year in the KBO if he re-signs for the 2024 season. That means he’s already familiarized with KBO pitchers and won’t have to go through the trial and error of adjusting to the league.

The club is also positive about re-signing Socrates. A KIA official said, “It’s definitely a problem (re-signing Socrates). It won’t be easy to find a new foreign hitter who can perform as well as Socrates.” In the end, the amount of the contract seems to be the key. Socrates signed for $1.1 million this offseason, including a $300,000 signing bonus, $500,000 in salary, and a $300,000 option. Based on his batting performance, there is a salary increase factor, so the negotiation table is not expected to be simple.

Lotte infielder Ahn Chi-hong. Photo by Kim Young-gu

Doosan infielder Yang Suk-hwan. Photo by Kim Young-gu
If Socrates is re-signed, KIA will have to continue to look for a first baseman. If they don’t re-sign Socrates, they will most likely look for a new foreign bat in the form of a big first baseman. However, if they do keep Socrates, they can look to reinforce the first base position outside of the organization, which has been an issue for manager Kim Jong-kook this season.

Yang Seok-hwan and Ahn Chi-hong are two first basemen who could be available in the free agent market this winter. Yang played in 140 games this season, batting .281 with 147 hits, 21 home runs, and 89 RBIs. Ahn Chi-hong has played in 121 games this season, batting .292 with 124 hits, 8 home runs, and 63 RBIs.

If you look at pure home run production, Yang has the edge, but if you look at multi-position versatility at second base and first base and the implications of returning to his family, Ahn could be attractive.토토사이트 Another variable is that Yang is a Class A free agent (20 protected) and Ahn is a Class B free agent (25 protected).

KIA could have one of the strongest center field lines in the league if they succeed in adding outside first base this winter. With a tablesetter of Park Chan-ho and Kim Do-young, followed by Na Sung-beom and Socrates, and a cleanup trio of Yang Seok-hwan or Ahn Chi-hong, there’s no way around it. It will be interesting to see what decisions KIA will make to upgrade their batting lineup this winter.

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